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JimCC

Cormorants Threatening inland lake fisheries?

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Our family just returned from our annual vacation spot on Lake Nipissing.   The fishing was pretty much non existent.   For the past several years,  HUGE flocks of Cormorants have invaded the lake.  Baitfish have disappeared in large numbers, and of course,  now larger fish have become extremely scarce, in the shallow waters that makes up much of this lake.   

Northern Pike used to have Perch in their stomachs.  The Camp operator where we go,  has been checking himself and with others,  and now its pretty much all crayfish,  if anything at all.  

These fish vacuum cleaners are protected federally.  What can be done?  They are killing the fish population.  What about them?    We enjoy ourselves on the beach and around the campfire (if they're allowed), and so on,  but renting a boat, and catching a few fish for a tasty lunch has always been part of why we come all these years.

Camps are closing.   After nearly 40 years of supporting the area with our vacation dollar,  we think its finally reached the point where we give up, and may not be returning in 2019.   Sad really. 

I think only an organized lobby effort,  perhaps by a forum like this,  plus Camp operators who still remain,   need to push for a Cormorant cull on our inland lakes.   Let them stay protected, if necessary, on their  normal coastal habitats, but geez, we need to do something about the slaughter of our inland lake fisheries.      Would love to hear what others have to say on this topic.    Thanks for reading.

Side note to Admin:  I've been a member of this forum for something like 12+ years,  I used to post quite a bit under 'JimC'  handle but was unable to Sign-In and neither of my 2 email addys were recognized when I tried to do a password reset.    So, I've Signed up as a newbie under JimCC

 

 

Edited by JimCC

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I just saw a different thread below, referring to Toronto area cormorants.

Some links therein seem to show there was a Queens Park Bill floating around to de-protect these things, but it got sidelined.

I do hope it gets re-introduced under the new government.   

 

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When I was young we never saw them along the Lake Erie shoreline here, of course back then they might have needed x-ray specs to see a fish 2 feet away! There was an island across from the city boat launch in Sandusky Bay, it used to have live trees on it, by 2002 they looked like the trees on page 2 of this article, and that island is now loaded with cormorants.

To Kill a Cormorant | Natural History Magazine

With the increased water clarity here and the normal very clear Canadian waters I can see how having tons of birds around that can dive to 45 meters ( according to wiki ) in search of food could pose a real problem!

Sandusky Bay at around 46,000 acres is the largest bay on Lake Erie here and it's main feeder river, the Sandusky River is home to a number of spawning runs by different species of fish, walleye, white bass.

The bay itself with a lot of areas of sheltered water is also a spawning ground for other species, smallmouth and largemouth bass, crappie, bluegill, catfish, northern pike and others.

Nothing personal against Cormorants myself, but if you have enough of them in an area to kill all the trees on an island there is a balance that needs adjustment?

 

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Wow. Not sure you blame poor fishing on Nippissing all on the cormorants. Lots of other factors too. But they sure contribute.  I’m surprised the local natives don’t take care of this 

 

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There's no question that they have some impact on the fishing on Nip.  However, we were up there from July 28 - August 4 and we had the best fishing we've had up there in over 30 years.   We had multiple 60+ days of walleyes between 15-27 inches (many above 18").  We also had a blast with smallmouth and largemouth.  We didn't target muskies as much as we used to but when we did, we caught some decent pike.   We found the walleyes in 30+ feet of water.

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As far as I know Cormorants are not protected federally.. The province was in the process of putting Bill 205 through the legislature to allow them to be shot on sight. It died when Wynne prorogued parliament.. 

Edited by pics

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I'm not so sure about the validity your post. To me, it looks like it was written in such a way as to rally the troops with a "sky is falling" message. I don't believe it's near as bad as you're projecting. If fact, read the new thread: Nip/Upper French Report. It portrays an opposite scenario of what you're saying with pictures to back it up. I'm not trying to protect cormorants, I'm just suggesting that maybe before blaming birds on your inability to catch fish, you should consider another source for the problem? I'd start by PM'ing Marty from Pittsburgh. :good:

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Finally got a few minutes to respond ...

Thanks OhioFisherman for your very interesting background on Lake Erie as it relates to the Cormorant impressive ability to dive deep.  I read every word of the lengthy article you linked to.   Also very interesting,  but clearly authored by someone who has way way more invested in the well being of that particular bird vs others (Gulls, loons, etc) and of course fish.   At least that's how it struck me, but very well written for sure.

captpierre,  yes I realize there are other factors that many feel are adversely affecting Nipissing's Walleye, Pike Perch fishery.   They've been covered extensively on this forum over the years I've been visiting here from time to time;   I chose not to go there.  ;)

Marty ... what can I say, but WOW ... good for you and your fellow anglers !!    60+ Walleye a day!   You didn't specify how many in your group,  how many hours per day fishing,  how well equipped your boat(s)  were ie.  depth readouts,  fish finders, gps to mark those honey holes, etc. but hey it doesn't matter.   Clearly the Cormorants have little impact on the very experienced ,  well equipped (assuming) fishermen, that I'm guessing you and your posse are,  which is Great. 

pics ... I stand corrected ... its a provincial thing.   I guess I got the 'Federally protected'  from the link  OF provided above, but that's in the US.  Maybe our recently elected majority, PC Provincial  government could be persuaded to take another look at resurrecting the Bill that your refer to ?  

What I'm most concerned about,  and why I started this thread,  is the obvious, devastating effect that the huge Cormorant flocks are having on the shallow areas of Nipissing, where the casual, once-a -year fisherman,  could once take their kid /grand kids,  and catch their first 'keeper Perch',  and maybe a few 9-12in.'ers in the basket for a nice dinner.    Not too much to ask for dropping $2-$3 thou. for a weeks cottage and boat rental,   not to mention the  6 -10hr. drive to get there.   

Before the cormorants arrival,  we could do that any day of the week,  minutes from the cottage,   and without risking long distance travel in the rock and shoal infested areas,  in and around Cache Bay, west of the Veuve River, where have enjoyed so many good times.    It's been noted Cormorants dive 100 feet to chase a fish.   Not much of a challenge in the 5ft - 12ft waters that is the depth range of the vast area of NW Nipissing between the Veuve,  Pine Is.  the Hardwoods, Collins Bay and so on.   Most of those 'keepers'  are gone from the area now.   Oh,  and where have all those big Sunfish gone ?   Used to be plentiful and so much fun for the kids to catch, cuz they fight like heck. Haven't seen one of those in years.

So, yeah,  there are still plenty of Walleye, and decent Pike, Perch,  in Nipissing.... Marty's comments are proof of that.   But for those,  vacationer or locals,  who fish infrequently,  and don't have a fully equipped boat and navigational skills to cross the lake to the deep waters of the French River,  catching a few 'keepers' for the dinner table,  and to see the smile on your kids face,  has pretty much become a distant memory.    

 

and finally to Grimsby guy ... what a beauty condescending,  arrogant,  presumptuous comment.   Made me laugh actually.    You know nothing of my ability to catch fish.   I've done pretty well over the years,  especially given that I only get out once or twice a year.    For the record,  I did actually catch a couple of Walleye last week,  both about 17.5 inches  and in case you were wondering,  I did return them,  given the asinine 18.1 in. slot, but that's a whole other thread.   We also got  ONE Pike , 26in.  and a couple of nice Smallmouth ... but NO PERCH because there are NONE, in our area ... and yes I blame the Cormorants 100% for that, based on 40yrs vacationing there.  Although you totally missed my point initially,  Hopefully,  my further clarification will help you understand where I'm  coming from.  If not,  that's ok too.   Cheers.

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41 minutes ago, JimCC said:

Finally got a few minutes to respond ...

 Clearly the Cormorants have little impact on the very experienced ,  well equipped (assuming) fishermen, 

 

Not sure why you have a bug up your arse, looks like you agree.... :dunno:

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Well Jim that article was from a natural history magazine, so I am assuming they are in no hurry to decimate a species of birds without evidence that they are the actual cause of a problem? After a search I found the article was published in 2009, which sort of fit my assumptions based on the dates mentioned in the article.

Even I have some issues with the article... " The population growth in the Great Lakes—from approximately 90 breeding pairs in 1970 to nearly 115,000 in 2000—was fueled, ironically enough, by government managers stocking the region’s waters for recreational angling, often using fish raised in the southeastern aquaculture ponds. "

They forgot to mention improved water quality? and here in Ohio a ban on commercial walleye fishing, which improved despite a growth in the cormorant population? Outside of LOL, invasive species like salmon and steelhead I have no knowledge of them stocking Lake Erie?

The news reports here this year are saying it's the best walleye fishing on Lake Erie in 40 years, amazing what a few consecutive good spawning years can accomplish? and again this is with an increased cormorant population.

Sandusky Bay is for the most part shallow ( under 10 feet ) except for a few shipping boat channels and fishing there was much better even with the cormorants than back in the later 60's and early 70's.

Of course though, different bodies of water, so cause and effect varies?

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Thanks for your additional info and insight, OF ...  you mentioned improved Walleye fishing on the Ohio side (of Erie ?) when commercial fishing was banned.   Most are convinced a similar ban on Nipissing would have a similar result;  but we all know that ain't gonna happen anytime soon, if ever,  due to First Nations historical rights and all.   The best we can hope for there, is that they control it themselves, imho.

I, and many others feel strongly, that Cormorant numbers,  if reduced in the shallow water area(s) where they flourish,  as outlined above,  would help restore the stocks of Perch and Sunfish, panfish, and the like,  over time.    I'm not suggesting a mass slaughter of these birds,  but an organized,  authorized program of egg oiling, plus a few sharp shooters who know what they're doing,  would discourage them from flocking by the thousands to this same area each year.   Allow local boaters to disrupt their 'fishing circles',  which are amazing to witness,  but of course the Perch, etc.  scared into the ever tightening circle have no chance,  once the feeding frenzy begins and water boils with activity.

Hey, its a complicated subject for sure,  and I don't think there's a once-size-fits-all solution here.   But tourism is definitely suffering.  The Camp where we've gone for all those years used to be full all season long,  with waiting lists for cottages.   Not the case any longer and the owner / operators know that part of the reason is the severe dropoff in Perch numbers since the Cormorants arrived in huge numbers.  No Perch, then obviously no reason for the Walleye and large Pike to hang around in the shallower waters during peak tourist season.    

I'll leave it there,  but will at some point dig into the contact info for the MPPs who have a vested interest in a healthy Tourism industry in and around the Calendar-North Bay- Sturgeon Falls area,   and post it here.   Maybe if enough like minded folks encourage them to try and lift the 'protected' status in some form,  it will happen.    They do have a 4yr mandate and a majority, but this may come down to a private members bill,  once again,  as only a relatively small group are affected or interested.    However,  its a HUGE deal for the dwindling number of Camp Owners / operators who need to spend literally hundreds of thousands of dollars to upgrade their water, and sewage systems to meet every more stringent standards.    If their dedicated customers stop coming,  the math just doesn't work.

Edited by JimCC

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Lake Nipissing is a complicated ecosystem with a number of factors contributing to the alleged crisis in the lake, the cormorants only being one.  As we can see from this thread alone, there isn't even a clear consensus that there is a crisis to begin with (I am not really convinced either based on our success on the lake in the last decade).  Anyway, you may be aware of this group but here is a link to the Lake Nipissing Stakeholders Association facebook page.  If you do a search on the page there are links to a few good articles from a few years ago discussing the impact of the birds on the fish populations which may be of interest.  Lots of info too on the work being done with all levels of government to sort out the commercial fishing (both legal and illegal), the re-stocking programs, the cormorants and various other initiatives.    

 

https://www.facebook.com/pg/lakenipissingstakeholdersassoc/posts/

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Thanks for your input, G.mech ... the Facebook link provided appears to have gone dormant at first glance as  May 2 is the last activity that I can see,  with most content dating back to 2017.    But at least their trying and did indicate a tough spring to be doing re-stocking.

I agree that the overall Lake Nipissing fishery is NOT in crisis mode, based on my own experience and others,  such as "Marty's"  comment earlier in this thread;    however,  for all the reasons I've outlined,  there are vast shallow areas of the Lake that most like ARE in crisis mode (vs historical norms) as it pertains to numbers of smaller fish (ie. Perch,  panfish, etc) vital to the overall food chain for Pike, Walleye, Muskie, and to name the most relevent.    Cormorants arrived in Great numbers here,  within the last 5 - 7 years,  and Perch of any size have virtually disappeared,  although we still get some of those 3-4 in. worm stealers,  so there's that.  ;)

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On 8/26/2018 at 3:01 PM, pics said:

As far as I know Cormorants are not protected federally.. The province was in the process of putting Bill 205 through the legislature to allow them to be shot on sight. It died when Wynne prorogued parliament.. 

Migratory birds act is federal. Thats where the protection comes from, no? 

 

S. 

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2 hours ago, G.mech said:

No would be the answer, they are protected under the Ont Fish & Wildlife Act, not sure why but that's what this article says:

https://www.ofah.org/issues/cormorants/

 

Really.....learn something new every day. They are actually listed in the MBCA as being not protected. 

The kawartha's are polluted with them. More and more all the time. Its brutal. They need to die. 

 

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3 hours ago, G.mech said:

No would be the answer, they are protected under the Ont Fish & Wildlife Act, not sure why but that's what this article says:

https://www.ofah.org/issues/cormorants/

 

Yes, listed under families not protected federally , no different than crows and starlings if the province chooses to remove their protection.

https://www.canada.ca/en/environment-climate-change/services/migratory-birds-legal-protection/convention-act.html

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I've looked for the regs that I read this and cannot find the link; but I know it was an Ont. Gov site. If cormorants have set up nesting on private property and are doing damage to the property or threatening to kill aquatic life on your property; you are allowed to "harass and or kill" the bird to the point they are no longer a threat to your property. Crown land is still off limits; but doesn't crown land belong to all of us???

Dan  

Edited by DanD
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19 minutes ago, DanD said:

I've looked for the regs that I read this and cannot find the link; but I know it was an Ont. Gov site. If cormorants have set up nesting on private property and are doing damage to the property or threatening to kill aquatic life on your property; you are allowed to "harass and or kill" the bird to the point they are no loner a threat to your property. Crown land is still off limits; but doesn't crown land belong to all of us???

Dan  

 I worked for the MNR back in the early 70's, out of the Simcoe Ontario Office, they had to routinely deal with Kingfishers and Herons at the Normandale Fish Hatchery.  Farmers deal with a lot of wildlife but that falls under the three S's Rule 😎

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What's that mean?

Farmers deal with a lot of wildlife but that falls under the three S's Rule 

😎

 

 

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